Durban - Amid tributes flowing in for murdered Siam Lee, who dreamed of going to film school, police investigations this week revealed a connection to a seedy world of drugs and prostitution.
On Saturday afternoon police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that a close relative of Siam’s had been taken in for questioning in connection with her murder. The relative was later released without charge.
While Siam’s mother, Nan Lee, has declined to comment on disclosures arising from police investigations, it is alleged that her death was linked to more than R50000 owed to a Nigerian drug dealer.
It is believed Siam might have been taken for ransom until the debt was paid.
“Her murder was clearly not planned; it seems to have been a kidnapping gone wrong,” said a private investigator who is assisting the police investigations.
He said whoever had killed her had left quite a trail.
A second source with intimate knowledge of the investigation confirmed the private investigator’s information.
Siam attended the private Crawford College North Coast and completed her matric in 2015.
Her friends have described her on social media as a “full of life” and “carefree” soul who always saw the best in people.
On her Facebook page on Saturday, tributes continued to pour in.
“Everyone who has met Si and knows her knows how she has had an impact on them in even the smallest ways and what an amazing soul she was. We are all here for support and to find justice and help in any way we can."
“I still remember meeting her for the first day and I swear I didn’t only find a friend in her. A strong-minded, beautiful and imperial soul was what you were, Si,” Farah Fayleen posted on Siam’s wall."
Robert Hardy also commented on her wall: “She was such a genuine girl; she had a heart greater than anyone I know. I’m so glad I got to meet you and share a bit of my life with you. I’ll never forget you. You influenced me to look at the brighter side of life and for that I will be forever grateful.”
On Thursday last week, Siam was reported to have been abducted outside 60 Margaret Maytom Road in Durban North. The house, owned by a Chinese national, has operated as a massage parlour and has been raided by police several times.
The first police statement appealing to the public to assist them in finding Siam was released on Friday, January 5. It said her shoes had been found at the scene, indicating an abduction.
A subsequent police statement, released this Wednesday, provided an identikit of a man who allegedly left with Siam in a black Mercedes Benz Vito/V-class, allegedly with unknown GP registration plates.
On Thursday, a charred body that had been discovered on a New Hanover farm, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, at the weekend, was provisionally identified as the missing woman. The remains were identified from pieces of clothing and a lip ring.
Following Siam’s abduction, the tactical rapid response unit Mobi-Claw posted a video on social media of Siam’s mother and a family friend, Sue Foster, appealing for people to help find Siam.
Foster said in the video that Siam was a “gentle girl” and appealed to her alleged abductors to “please bring her back safely”.
Their appeals touched people around the world.
Prominent Durban film producer Janet van Eeden said she had often met Siam and her mother on the beachfront.
Van Eeden said Siam had dreamed of attending film school.
“Due to my links and being a lecturer at film school Afda, Siam and her mom often spoke to me about arranging for her to visit. I made arrangements for her to attend an open day, but she did not end up going.
"Her mother always said Siam was a creative person and so she wanted to pursue a career in the arts. What has happened to her is a tragedy,” said Van Eeden.
Zwane said the police were still appealing for those with information on the murder to come forward with information that could assist with the investigations.